A contemporary of the BOSS DR-55 Dr. Rhythm from Roland, the SoundMaster Memory Rhythm SR-88 is a programmable drum machine with four analog sounds. It has much in common not only with the first Dr. Rhythm, but with a number of other simple drum machines that proliferated around this time – models such as the Clef Master Rhythm, Amdek Rhythm Machine, Movement Sequence Memory Rhythm and EDC SR-99. Some were available in kit form and all were aimed at the musician who wanted the flexibility of a programmable drum machine, but were unable to afford the high price tag of something like a Roland CR-78 or Linn LM-1.
As with the DR-55, the SR-88 has six patterns consisting of two 16-step bars and two patterns consisting of two 12-step bars. Patterns may be played as bar A only, bar B only, bar A and B consecutively, or in a “fill in” mode where bar B is played at the end of each four, eight or sixteen bar cycle. Programming a pattern is performed in step mode by selecting a sound and pressing the start button for a note or the stop button for a rest. Each press of either button advances the pattern one step, until it cycles around at the end. Once programmed, patterns cannot be chained together to form songs, but may be selected on the fly.
The sounds themselves consist of a Kick, Snare, Closed Hi-Hat and Cymbal. Unlike the DR-55, there is no Rim-shot, but the Hi-Hat is fully programmable. There no is Accent facility, but the combination of Hi-Hat and Cymbal on the same step provides some degree of dynamic variation. The sounds themselves are a little less punchy those of the DR-55, sounding more like those found in earlier drum machines from Roland and Korg.
Overall, the SR-88 proved very successful and went through a number of iterations during the several years it was produced. Earlier models are housed in a blue chassis, while later ones sport a more sober grey chassis with the addition of clock and trigger out sockets. There is also a straightforward modification that adds a clock in socket for those wishing to slave the SR-88 to another device.
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